HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET

CAST

Johnny Depp (Into The Woods)
Helena Bonham Carter (Fight Club)
Alan Rickman (Harry Potter)
Timothy Spall (Rock Star)
Sascha Baron Cohen (Grimsby)
Jamie Campbell Bower (The Prisoner)
Lucy Michelle Kelly (Goddess)
Jayne Wisener (Boogeyman 3)
Anthony Head (Buffy)

In 1846, Benjamin Barker, a barber, arrives in London, accompanied by sailor Anthony Hope. Fifteen years earlier, he was falsely convicted and sentenced to penal transportation by the corrupt Judge Turpin, who lusted after Barker’s wife Lucy. Barker adopts the alias “Sweeney Todd” and returns to his old Fleet Street shop, situated above Mrs. Nellie Lovett’s meat pie shop. He learns that Turpin raped Lucy, who then poisoned herself with arsenic. The couple’s daughter, Johanna, is now Turpin’s ward, and is the object of Turpin’s lust. Todd vows revenge, and re-opens his barber shop after Mrs. Lovett returns his straight razors to him. Anthony becomes enamored with Johanna, but is caught by Turpin and driven away by his corrupt associate, Beadle Bamford.

Todd denounces faux-Italian barber Adolfo Pirelli’s hair tonic as a fraudulent mix and humiliates him in a public shaving contest. A few days later, Pirelli arrives at Todd’s shop, with his boy assistant Tobias Ragg. Mrs. Lovett keeps Toby occupied while Pirelli identifies himself as Todd’s former assistant, Davy Collins, and threatens to reveal Todd’s secret unless Todd gives him half his earnings. Todd kills Collins to protect his secret, and hides his body in a trunk.

After receiving advice from Bamford, Turpin, intending marriage to Johanna, visits Todd’s shop for grooming. Todd shaves Turpin, preparing to slit his throat; they are interrupted by Anthony, who reveals his plan to elope with Johanna before noticing Turpin. Turpin leaves enraged and Todd vents his rage by killing customers while waiting for another chance to kill Turpin, and Mrs. Lovett bakes the victims into pies. Todd rigs his barber’s chair with a pedal-operated mechanism that deposits his victims through a trap door into Mrs. Lovett’s basement bake-house. Anthony searches for Johanna, whom Turpin has sent to an insane asylum upon discovering her plans to elope with Anthony.

The barbering and pie-making businesses prosper, and Mrs. Lovett takes Toby as her assistant. Mrs. Lovett tells an uninterested Todd of her plans to marry him and move to the seaside. Anthony discovers Johanna’s whereabouts and poses as a wig-maker’s apprentice to rescue her. Todd has Toby deliver a letter to Turpin, telling him where Johanna will be brought when Anthony frees her. Toby has become wary of Todd and tells Mrs. Lovett of his suspicion.

Bamford arrives at the pie shop, informing Mrs. Lovett that neighbors have been complaining of the stink from her chimney. He is distracted by Todd’s offer of a free grooming and is murdered by Todd. Mrs. Lovett informs Todd of Toby’s suspicions, and the pair search for Toby, whom Mrs. Lovett has locked in the bake-house. He has hidden himself in the sewers after seeing Bamford’s body drop into the room from the trap door above, as well as finding a human toe in a pie. Anthony brings Johanna, disguised as a sailor, to the shop, and has her wait there while he leaves to find a coach.
A beggar woman enters the shop in search of Bamford. She recognizes Todd, but upon hearing Turpin’s voice, Todd kills her and sends her through the trap door. As Turpin enters, Todd explains that Johanna had repented and offers a free shave; when Turpin finally recognizes Todd as Benjamin Barker, Todd stabs him several times before cutting his throat. Upon seeing Johanna, Todd prepares to slit her throat as well, not recognizing her as his daughter. Hearing Mrs. Lovett scream in horror as a dying Turpin grabs her dress, Todd instead spares Johanna’s life.
Todd discovers that the beggar woman was his wife Lucy, whom he believed to be dead, and that Mrs. Lovett misled him about her death. Todd pretends to forgive her and dances with her before hurling her into the bake-house oven, then cradles his wife’s dead body in his arms. Toby climbs from the sewers and Todd allows Toby to slit his throat with his own razor. He leaves the basement as Todd bleeds to death all over his dead wife.Depp and Bonham Carter are both excellent and it’s down to their performances that I never quite lost sympathy with them in their descent into madness, blood lust and cannibalism.

REVIEW: THE SPY (2019)

Sacha Baron Cohen in The Spy (2019)

Starring

Sacha Baron Cohen (Alice Through The Looking Glass)
Noah Emmerich (Jane Got a Gun)
Alexander Siddig (Game of Thrones)
Hadar Ratzon-Rotem (Homeland)

imagesIn Netflix’s new six-part miniseries The Spy, Sacha Baron Cohen plays Eli Cohen, an Israeli intelligence agent who spent years in the Sixties undercover in Syria under the name Kamel Amin Thaabet. It’s a big dramatic showcase for an actor best known for broad sketch-comedy characters like Borat and Ali G. While comic actors are generally better equipped to play drama than serious performers are to be funny, not everyone has the skill to cross that stylistic divide. But Baron Cohen couldn’t have found a role more well-suited to his gifts and career to date. The Spy is a thriller played entirely straight, but it also feels like Baron Cohen’s persona with vastly higher stakes. His specialty, after all, is to adopt a character like Borat, or like Who Is America? conspiracy theorist Billy Wayne Ruddick Jr., and portray him out in the wild, opposite strangers who have to believe the character is real for the joke to work. If someone sees through one of Baron Cohen’s disguises, everybody just leaves and the sketch gets left on the cutting room floor, whereas Eli Cohen had to stay in character for months on end, with his life at stake if he slipped. But the basic principle is the same.MV5BNmJkYmNlMDEtMGQ4ZC00MjVmLWI3OTgtMzZjZTgwNzAxZTUzXkEyXkFqcGdeQTNwaW5nZXN0._V1_UX477_CR0,0,477,268_AL_Created by Gideon Raff (whose Israeli drama Prisoners of War was remade here as Homeland), The Spy doesn’t dwell on the parallels between the careers of the two (unrelated) Cohens. Still, it’s hard not to see them, particularly once Eli goes from nervous rookie operative to a smooth operator who charms his way into the highest echelons of Syria’s government and society. And while there are times in Baron Cohen’s sketch career where it seems unlikely that no one is questioning the reality or a Borat or Bruno, he seems utterly plausible as Kamel, a wealthy importer/exporter who throws the best parties in Damascus.the-spy-feat-960x430It is, by design, a decidedly unflashy performance. Eli’s goal was to make powerful friends, but to do it by blending in rather than standing out. As his anxious handler Dan Peleg (Noah Emmerich) puts it, “Noticeable spies end up dead.” Baron Cohen is convincingly understated as both Eli and Kamel in a way that’s suited to the material, even if there are only brief flashes of a wider range. Most of those flashes come fairly late in the story, as Eli begins to wear down from years of being largely absent from the lives of wife Nadia (Hadar Ratzon Rotem) and the children he was able to conceive but not raise during his brief home visits, and from the constant danger that Dan keeps placing him in.The-Spy-Netflix-810x456Until those final chapters, The Spy is an effectively meat-and-potatoes espionage story, where the details of Eli’s mission are remarkable and taut enough to require little embellishment. But neither is there much in the way of the moral complexity you often find in this genre (including on Emmerich’s last TV spy role on The Americans). Eli never seems particularly conflicted about betraying all of the friends he makes as Kamel. There are occasional references to the idea that Eli, born in Egypt and darker of skin than many Israelis, is treated as a second-class citizen by the nation he is risking his life every day to protect — “You know what they see when they look at me,” he tells Nadia early on. “They see an Arab. That’s it. Jewish, yes, but just an Arab.” But Raff and his collaborators don’t dig too deep in that corner of their hero’s psyche. He is presented as a noble patriot who did his duty and missed his wife terribly, period.the-spy-2019-sacha-baron-cohen-netflix.The story is still enough to satisfyingly fill six hours, and Raff deploys some interesting stylistic touches along the way, like a muted color palette that occasionally creates the illusion we’re watching a black-and-white film from the period, or the way that Eli’s Morse code dispatches to Israel leap onto the screen so that we’re not just watching him tap on a telegraph machine for minutes on end. And Baron Cohen is ably backed by a supporting cast full of actors — including Emmerich, Waleed Zuaiter (as Syrian military officer and politician Amin Al-Hafez), and Alexander Siddig (as a Syrian official who is rightly suspicious of Kamel from the start) — whose presence in a show like this is less surprising than his own.Screenshot-2019-09-03-at-17.49.07-2The Spy won’t necessarily convince you that Baron Cohen will, like Robin Williams or Jim Carrey before him, prove to be just as potent at playing serious as he was going for belly laughs. But it’s a promising start if he wants to start disappearing into characters whose goals are more dangerous than a prank.

 

REVIEW: ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUES

 

Starring

Will Ferrell (The Lego Movie)
Steve Carell (Little Miss Sunshine)
Paul Rudd (Ant-Man)
David Koechner (Get Smart)
Christina Applegate (Dead To Me)
Dylan Baker (The Good Wife)
Meagan Good (Minority Report TV)
James Marsden (Superman Returns)
Fred Willard (Fifty Shades of Black)
Kristen Wiig (Ghostbusters)
Josh Lawson (Free Birds)
Chris Parnell (Goosebumps 2)
Greg Kinnear (As Good As It Gets)
Wilbur Fitzgerald (Robocpop 3)
Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones)
Sacha Baron Cohen (Grimsby)
Marion Cotillard (The Dark Knight Rises)
Will Smith (Men In Black)
Kirsten Dunst (Spider-Man)
Jim Carrey (Kidding)
Tina Fey (30 Rock)
Liam Neeson (Taken)
Amy Poehler (Sisters)
John C. Reilly (Cyrus)
Vince Vaughn (The Internship)
Kanye West (The Cleveland Show)
June Diane Raphael (Year One)

Will Ferrell, David Koechner, and Paul Rudd in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)In 1980, Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) and Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) are married and are both co-anchors for a prestigious news network in New York City. One day, Mack Tannen (Harrison Ford), the most famous nightly news anchor in New York, reveals that he is retiring. He intends to promote Corningstone, making her the first female nightly news anchor in the history of television, and to fire Burgundy due to his continuously sloppy performance on air. Burgundy grows jealous of Corningstone’s success and storms out of the house, leaving Corningstone and his six-year-old son Walter (Judah Nelson).Christina Applegate and Will Ferrell in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)Six months later, Burgundy is back in San Diego, but barely able to hold a job due to his depression. After being fired from SeaWorld and botching a suicide attempt, Burgundy accepts a job offered to him by Freddie Shapp (Dylan Baker) with GNN (Global News Network), the world’s first 24-hour cable news network, for GNN’s official launch. He reassembles his news team, finding Champ Kind (David Koechner), who owns a fried chicken store (that sells bats secretly to cut down on costs), Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), now a famous cat photographer, and Brick Tamland (Steve Carell), who is presumed dead but appears at his own funeral. They are assigned the unpopular late-night timeslot while obnoxious rival anchorman Jack Lime (James Marsden) is put in a primetime slot. Meanwhile, Burgundy finds that Corningstone has started dating another man, a psychologist named Gary (Greg Kinnear).Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, David Koechner, and Paul Rudd in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)As GNN launches, Burgundy decides to broadcast what the people want to hear, rather than what they need to hear. He and his team devise a sensationalist and attention-grabbing newscast. Their new approach proves to be a hit, beating Lime in ratings by a massive margin, and the other news networks scramble to emulate them. Burgundy and his team are promoted to primetime, where they enjoy fame and fortune. Burgundy’s success excites GNN’s manager, Linda Jackson (Meagan Good), and they begin a romantic relationship. Tamland meets a similarly eccentric GNN office worker named Chani (Kristen Wiig) and immediately falls in love. Burgundy lets his newfound fame get to his head and neglects his parental obligations to Walter, angering Corningstone. He also alienates Fantana, Kind, and Tamland, claiming he is tired of carrying them.Christina Applegate and Will Ferrell in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)During a party celebrating GNN’s success, Lime causes Burgundy to slip and suffer a head injury, resulting in him becoming temporarily blind. Unable to read the news, Burgundy isolates himself in a lighthouse, unable to adjust to his loss of sight. Corningstone arrives with Walter for a visit and Burgundy bonds with his family, gradually overcoming his disability. Burgundy and his son rehabilitate a small shark, naming him Doby before setting him free. Burgundy finds out that Corningstone was hiding messages from his eye doctor about an experimental procedure. He leaves angrily, gets his sight restored, and returns to GNN.Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, David Koechner, and Paul Rudd in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)Back in New York, returning to work, Burgundy is once again approached by Corningstone, who pleads with him to attend Walter’s piano recital. At the same time, an exclusive news story comes in, requiring Burgundy to cover it. On live TV, Burgundy instead goes on a rant criticizing news networks, including GNN, for focusing on ratings rather than the news. He leaves for Walter’s recital but is intercepted by an angered Lime and his team and other angered teams from news networks, including Tannen, all of whom want to kill him due to his fame. Burgundy’s friends arrive to defend him and a massive free-for-all battle ensues. Burgundy’s old arch-rival Wes Mantooth (Vince Vaughn) threatens to blow up Lime’s news crew and is accidentally blown up by Tamland instead before Tannen, Lime, and all the other teams retreat from the fight in defeat. Burgundy manages to reach Walter’s recital in time. Burgundy and his friends later attend Tamland’s and Chani’s wedding on the beach.Will Ferrell and Steve Carell in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)This movie is both funny and a great piece of satire. There are plenty of laughs and very silly situations but there is also a message about how news reporting has changed in the last 30 years thanks to powerful men who own the media. The Australian owner of GNN is obviously Rupert Murdoch .